We are expecting a child in a few weeks. Is there something for girls that is equivalent to the bris ceremony for boys?

Answered by
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis

We are expecting a child in a few weeks. We think it will be a girl. Is there an equivalent to the bris ceremony for boys? We want to do something to welcome her and give her a Hebrew name.

Traditionally, a brit milah is the ceremony whereby a Jewish boy is brought into the covenant. For a girl, there was a naming which took place in the synagogue, usually done by the father or grandfather coming to the synagogue and having a blessing said on behalf of the baby, who usually wasn't present. There have been attempts in various times and places to create something more ceremonious for girls, but it wasn't until the advent of the women's movement in the 1970's that there has been a general interest in such things. Today, it is quite common to have a naming ceremony for a girl, although the form it takes varies from community to community and even from family to family.

The Reform Rabbi's Manual contains a naming ceremony for girls which has all the same blessings and reading for a girl as for a boy, minus the blessing of milah itself. Some people like to have some kind of physical ritual for a girl that would in some way be analogous to the milah. One idea is to have a miniature mikveh for the girl, as her sign of entering the covenant. Others just go with a naming ceremony without any physical manifestations. Such ceremonies usually include blessings by the mother thanking God for a safe delivery, by the parents thanking God for a healthy child, and asking for help in raising the child, pledging to raise her Jewishly. Other family members may give blessings or say something, godparents may be honored with holding the baby, as in a brit milah, or may give a blessing. The child's name is announced, with some explanation of who she was named for or what the significance is of the name. The rabbi or officiant will bless the child, as in a brit milah, and then there is a party.

More simply, the child can be brought to synagogue on Shabbat and be named by the rabbi in front of the ark during services, which is a nice way of making this personal family event also a celebration for the community and a chance for the community to welcome the newest member into the Jewish community.

You can find out more about different kinds of naming ceremonies, for both boys and girls, in the following resources:

  • The Jewish Baby Book by Anita Diamant
  • Lifecycles by Rabbi Debra Orenstein
  • Jewish and Female by Susan Weidman Schneider